"Incredible voice... equally gifted teacher"

I am still reeling from today. Natalie is so dynamic to watch, and I’ve been getting nothing but positive feedback about the class. Obviously, she was born with this incredible voice, but she is an equally gifted teacher. I really hope she continues with the whole master class/vocal coaching thing. She has one hell of a set of ears, and I love that she is so technical in her approach to fixing vocal issues. None of this abstract talk or rainbows and butterflies or ‘you want to see the notes flowing out of you’ lol, but clear ideas with clear demonstrations. I LOVE this style of teaching! I prefer to teach this way as well.

She could be teaching pedagogy classes. Not kidding when I say this. Yeah, scientifically the names of the muscles are important and knowing what’s physiologically happening at every point in the singing process is expected as a pedagogue, but most importantly, she has the ears and the ability to tell when something is and isn’t right! I know a lot of scholars who can lecture and ‘talk’ about singing until their blue in the face but they can’t demonstrate that process to save their life! A textbook definition can only take a teacher so far if they can’t physically sing themselves.

For most singers, riffs are these mysterious entities. We see them in our music and skip to the next measure! Or muddle our way through until we can get to the next part of the song that feels ‘normal’ again-and for most singers this means ‘one note for every word’ lol! If you’re like most of the students I come in contact with, you sing 3 of the 10 notes or just say f* it and skip the whole riff together!!!!

Not only do they look scary as hell on the page but they sound equally overwhelming. You KNOW when you are hearing a real riffer. There’s an ease. A flexibility in the voice. A naturalness. A truly gifted riffer can make sense of the most beautiful musical phrases with no need for added text-the riff conveys and stirs more emotion than any set of words could.

Natalie is one of those gifted riffers that make singers truly envious of her skill and ability. Why is BDTR so useful and important? Because unlike the most famous riffers in the world , who seem to dangle their gift of riffing over our heads like we’re undeserving of this special information, Natalie ‘breaks’ this mystery down for the average ‘Joe’. She doesn’t keep this a secret. She makes the overwhelming process of singing a riff manageable. Any singer can tell you that the process of singing is not easy and don’t even get me started on the people who say, ‘ oh you sing?! How fun for you. Wish my job was that easy!’ Singing, easy??? Clearly, they don’t have a clue. The brain can only focus on so many things at a time. When you’re in the process of singing, you’re thinking about breath, placement, vowels, legato lines, text, character work, facial expression, etc! It’s an insane amount of information to focus on. This is why developing an awesome vocal technique takes years to establish- you hope as the singer to make many of these items second nature and habitual. Much like the process to learning a solid vocal technique, learning how to riff is also a process. There are steps and ways of making the process less stressful, and Natalie has cracked the mystery.

The process in a nutshell:

She plays the riff that will be studied for the ‘non’ riffer. They proceed to make faces, curse, and say I can’t do that. They may even threaten to leave....it’s all just too much.
With bright red lips and lots of encouragement, Natalie convinces the singer that yes, they to, can learn the riff at hand.
Now comes the fun part. She breaks the long riff down into smaller segments/chunks. 4 notes per segment feel alot easier than 27! By numbering the notes in the riff we can hear the changes in patterns. It’s not just ‘ahhhhhhhiiiiahhhh’ but 123/ 456/ down 1 23....this simple idea of numbering the notes is the key! After going real slow several times, we start to feel real proud of ourselves!
After the singer has become more confident, Natalie uses a nonsense syllable like ‘da’ in place of the numbers so the riff can start sounding more like it should.
After the singer has done this confidently, it’s time to speed things up! Slowly but surely you speed it up!
Voila! You change to the right word or vowel of the original riff and you’re ready to be squinting your face, waving your hand like a pro.
This process truly does work and makes this so manageable for singers at all levels and stages in their vocal process. It works and has been tested from the most beginner of singers to singers well into their careers. I’m calling it : BDTR will make the textbooks used in voice ped classes. The process of bdtr is so fun and enjoyable it’s almost easy to forget that it’s a legitimate and valuable method. Textbook worthy!
— Katie Gornick, The Allegra School of Music

Master ClassTony Howell